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Here’s Why Peter Jackson Should Return to Horror

Peter Jackson has had a long and successful career that has earned him three Academy Awards, including Best Director in 2004 for The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. He’s made 14 feature-length films and has directed several popular documentaries, including the highly praised The Beatles: Get Back. Many associate him with his big-budget studio projects like The Lord of the Rings, or King Kong, but it was his earlier career-making splatter comedies in New Zealand that started his career and gave reason to call him the king of gore.

These movies were made with passion, fun, and often homemade props and camera rigs. They may not have made the same level of money, or carry the same level of prestige, but these are the types of movies that Peter Jackson should return to someday. This is why Peter Jackson needs to return to the horror genre.

Update November 25, 2023: This article has been updated with more reasons why Peter Jackson should make his grand return to horror movies soon.

Return to His Root

Endeavour Productions

Bad Taste, Peter Jackson’s first feature film, was released in 1987 and made on an extremely home budget, with many of the props and set pieces being handmade by Jackson himself. The original budget of the film was only $25,000, and Jackson was forced to take on a lot of the financial responsibility himself. Even going as far as to use his mother’s oven to bake the masks used for the film. It was a ridiculous, gory, and often funny piece of pure imagination and fascination with film. It was also subject to a substantial amount of censorship. This would be a running theme in Jackson’s early career.

Jackson would continue to establish himself as the king of gore with his 1992 release, Braindead, or as it’s known in the United States, Dead Alive. This movie, heavily inspired by horror legend Tom Savini, serves as the primary reason for Jackson to return to horror, as this movie is an absolute masterpiece in every sense. It’s completely sure of its premise and tone and delivers on the bloody promise made by the poster and advertisements. Jackson does horror his own way, and it normally has humor and excess at its heart, he was quoted saying,

“[L]ike ‘Bad Taste,’ [‘Dead Alive’ is] a splatter film that non-splatter fans can go see. The humor dilutes the gore to a point that is acceptable, but still there for the fans. On the other hand, I’m not interested in making ‘hardcore’ horror films, like a ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ or even ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre,’ although I enjoy both those films. I like comedy too much, to the point that I could never make a film that took itself that seriously. Fundamentally, I just want to entertain people, so I usually trade in cheap laughs for true horror.”

This general approach to his films can be seen throughout his career, but never as thoroughly incorporated as it is in Braindead. The movie is outrageously funny but doesn’t skimp on the horror and gore. Some have even cited it as the goriest film ever made. It may not be what most people list when it comes to Peter Jackson’s legacy, but it should be.

The Horror In His Non-Horror Movies

Orcs Lord of the Rings New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema

Peter Jackson is easily known best for his work on the Lord of the Rings films. It earned him worldwide recognition among fans and the film industry. At this point, his name is almost synonymous with the franchise, as it seems he can’t seem to escape the association. His work on the original trilogy is award-worthy and has stood the test of time.

At first glance, it seemed like a pretty big departure for him. The acquisition of the rights for these films was difficult enough as it was, and the actual production was unlike anything he had been tested with before. Despite all this, even more than Heavenly Creatures, these movies showcased a lot of his splatter horror comedy style that made him a name in the past.

Related: How Peter Jackson Might Create a New Lord of the Rings Franchise

There are a lot of scenes in The Lord of the Rings, King Kong, and even The Hobbit trilogy that have echoes of his horror past. The Uruk-Hai creation scene in The Fellowship of the Ring, the bug pit scene in King Kong, or even the goblins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. None of these scenes ever reach the gory heights of his earlier films, but they feel like morsels of what made Peter Jackson who he is. They feel like glimpses into what the films might have been if ratings hadn’t been an issue, and if he was given complete creative control over his projects.

Lack of Control on Big Studio Films

Richard Armitage in The Hobbit
Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s no secret that Peter Jackson wasn’t originally set to direct The Hobbit trilogy. In fact, the original director was meant to be Guillermo del Toro. Jackson was still producing the movies and co-writing with del Toro. However, due to quite a few issues, del Toro left the project after two years of work and pre-production. This left the New Line Cinema crew without a director, and two years’ worth of work tailored specifically to del Toro’s style, which they were unable to use with a different director.

As a producer who didn’t want his work to be for nothing, Peter Jackson agreed to step up as director. The original trilogy was a passion project that Jackson had years to prepare for. He was quoted saying that The Hobbit trilogy only afforded him a couple of months so that they wouldn’t miss their deadlines.

Related: The Rings of Power Rumored to Bring Back LOTR Character Cut from Peter Jackson’s Trilogy

The Hobbit trilogy has a complicated legacy at this point. They made a massive amount of money, but they hardly captured the hearts and imaginations of viewers in quite the same way that the Lord of the Rings trilogy was able to do so masterfully. They were questioned by critics and fans alike, and many thought they fell way short of their predecessors. There are a lot of reasons for this, but most of them have to do with everything that went down during pre-production. Films where Jackson has more creative control, and more importantly, time to work on them, are ultimately more successful.

Strike While Horror is Hot

Split image of Insidious: The Red Door, Saw X, and Talk to Me

Horror was not always a genre that was taken seriously, but that mindset has been evolving in recent years. While the Academy could still do better by rewarding good horror films, critics and the public have shown time and time again that these are films they are willing to support themselves. There are plenty of films that recently came out that were not only box office hits but were received very well by reviewers. Talk To Me, Saw X, and Evil Dead Rise are all examples from 2023 that prove horror is hot and is now an audience favorite.

Peter Jackson returning to his roots now would be a better time than ever. The comedy horror of Bad Taste, or the splatter-fest nature of Braindead would fit right in with today’s landscape. M3GAN was a massive hit for its budget that surprised many with how charming, entertaining, and sometimes downright funny it was, and Terrifier shows that the grittier fans of the genre would take well to a flick centered almost entirely around gore and its practical effects.

While these are not perfect replicas of films he made in the past, they are examples that show that his style was perhaps somehow ahead of its time. A director as talented as Peter Jackson could come back to horror whenever he pleased, but right now, it would be the smartest financially.

Reestablishing a Legacy

A scene from Dead-Alive
ORO Films

This article is not meant to imply that Peter Jackson hasn’t done enough in his career to have a respectable legacy; he’s done more than enough. However, audiences would love to see a return to the types of films that he seemed to have the most fun doing. Art is often created out of pain and contemplation, but it can be created out of joy and freedom of expression as well. His passion and his fun bled into the heart of his earlier films, and this is the main reason that they have the lasting power that they do.

While Sam Raimi’s original return to horror with 2009’s Drag Me to Hell was originally mit with mixed reviews, in time it has become a cult classic. Scott Derrickson dropped out of Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness to instead do a smaller horror film, The Black Phone. Peter Jackson has been playing in the blockbuster landscape for so long that the idea of him returning to horror seems unlikely but would be one met with great excitement and enthusiasm from fans of his work, and likely general audiences who mainly know him for big-budget fantasy wanting to see him tackle horror in their mind for the first time in the modern age.

There are a lot of rumors swirling around about Jackson returning to Middle Earth. That was probably inevitable, but there are a lot of people out there who would love to see him return to where he started. With horror becoming as mainstream as it is these days, now would be a great time to see the king of splatter gore make another timeless entry.


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